Our roommate started it.
He came home one day with a shoebox of Vibram FiveFingers toe shoes, pleased as can be. Toe shoes, to quote directly from the Vibram FiveFingers website, are “different than any other footwear on the planet. Not only do they bring you closer to your environment, FiveFingers deliver a number of positive health benefits — by leveraging all of the body’s natural biomechanics, so you can move as nature intended.”
“They’re ugly,” I told him. “They look like gorilla feet.” I snapped at him to get the dirty toe shoes off of our ottoman — they are shoes, after all. But my boyfriend just eyed the rubbery footwear enviously. Boys and their toys, I thought to myself.
It was not long before he purchased a pair of himself.If he wanted to, he could find a way to blame these Vibram FiveFingers toe shoes on me.
The day that we moved in together — three months after pretty much falling in love with each other immediately — he was carrying a box of my junk up a flight of stairs when his back spasmed. (More specifically, I think it’s a muscle in his upper thigh connected to his back.) Seeing this six foot tall guy crippled like a limp noodle freaked me out; for days, I worked from home so I could cook his meals and help him hobble to the bathroom. “Go to the doctor!” I pleaded. Neither of us had health insurance at the time, so he preferred to just wait it out.
Anyone reading this who has suffered back pain before knows where this story is going. Over the course of the past year and a half that we’ve lived together, his back has acted up regularly, especially if he’s stuck sitting in the same position for too long. About six weeks ago, it started killing him — killing him — again. He flies frequently and after a month of particularly heavy travel, I think his back decided to exact revenge. My lame-ass, weak girl massages — which usually help a little — didn’t work. A thorough pounding from a Chinese lady-masseuse at a massage shop in Chinatown didn’t work. Various fun muscle relaxants and painkillers temporarily worked, but, of course, didn’t fix the problem in the long term. I voted for him to try yoga, but he worried that contorting in weird positions might do more harm than good.
Meanwhile, all our roommate could talk about was how wonnnnnnderful his feet felt while wearing toe shoes. He had never had any back or feet pain, but he swore they still made him his spine feel more balanced and aligned. You might say he’d become a toe shoes evangelist. “They’re ugly. UG. LY. Fugly!” I would shriek as the two of them sat around our apartment, staring at the shoes the way hunters must stare at a buck’s antlers they’ve shot hanging on the wall.
I would have thought the shoes’ utter and complete unattractiveness would have deterred my boyfriend. Our roommate is kind of a guy’s guy who doesn’t care about his appearance; however, my darling boyfriend is a bit of a natty dresser. For an adorably nerdy, straight, tech-y guy from New Jersey, he has a lot of opinions about fashion. But Vibram FiveFingers toe shoes are in a special category of clothing next to Crocs and, some would say, Uggs: They are so ugly that they’re cool.
He bought the toe shoes last week, despite my threats to pack up all my bags and dump him if he seriously was going to wear those nasty things. Now he, too, has gorilla feet. Sometimes he and our roommate wear their toe shoes together and smile at each other, thinking they look really awesome.
The upshot in all this is that yes, his back feels better. In fact, he hasn’t complained about back pain at all since he bought the toe shoes. He was able to sit for about three hours straight the other night at a cramped dinner event without a peep of problems. He’s hopeful that wearing toe shoes will not only help his back pain, but develop his muscles and put arches in his feet (he was born flat-footed). We — I mean, they — all wait on bated breath to see what else these magical shoes can do.
He keeps pretty quiet about my own sartorial choices that he dislikes. I know he doesn’t like it when I wear lipstick or lip gloss. Or when I wear my white leopard-print leggings. But unlike a particularly obnoxious ex-boyfriend who used to criticize my outfits constantly — seemingly with the goal of trying to get me to dress in the way he preferred — he mostly keeps those opinions to himself. In the interest of keeping the relationship peace — not to mention his own well-being — I will shut up about how much I hate his beloved footwear.
Instead, from now on, I will refrain from looking down at his feet. That is a true testament to my love.